7th August 1770

[At Anchor, Off Turtle Reef, Queensland]

Strong Gales at South-East, South-East by South, and South-South-East, with cloudy weather at Low water in the P.M. I and several of the Officers kept a look out at the Mast head to see for a Passage between the Shoals; but we could see nothing but breakers all the way from the South round by the East as far as North-West, extending out to Sea as far as we could see. It did not appear to be one continued Shoal, but several laying detached from each other. On the Eastermost that we could see the Sea broke very high, which made one judge it to be the outermost; for on many of those within the Sea did not break high at all, and from about 1/2 flood to 1/2 Ebb they are not to be seen, which makes the Sailing among them more dangerous, and requires great care and Circumspection, for, like all other Shoals, or Reefs of Coral Rocks, they are quite steep too. Altho' the most of these Shoals consist of Coral Rocks, yet a part of some of them is sand. The Turtle Reef and some others have a small Patch of Sand generally at the North end, that is only cover'd at high water. These generally discover themselves before we come near them. Altho' I speak of this as the Turtle Reef, yet it is not to be doubted but what there are Turtle upon the most of them as well as this one. After having well viewed our situation from the Mast Head, I saw that we were surrounded on every side with Dangers, in so much that I was quite at a loss which way to steer when the weather will permit us to get under sail, for to beat back to the South-East the way we came, as the Master would have had me done, would be an endless peice of work, as the winds blow constantly from that Quarter, and very Strong, without hardly any intermission;* (* The south-east trade wind blows home on this coast very strong from about June to October. Though the Barrier Reef prevents any great sea from getting up, the continuance of this wind is a great nuisance for a sailing ship from many points of view though from others it is an advantage.) on the other hand, if we do not find a passage to the Northward we shall have to come back at last. At 11 the Ship drove, and obliged us to bear away to a Cable and one third, which brought us up again; but in the morning the Gale increasing, she drove again. This made us let go the Small Bower Anchor, and bear away a whole Cable on it and 2 on the other; and even after this she still kept driving slowly, until we had got down Top gallant Masts, struck Yards and Top masts close down, and made all snug; then she rid fast, Cape Bedford bearing West-South-West, distant 3 1/2 Leagues. In this situation we had Shoals to the Eastward of us extending from the South-East by South to the North-North-West, distant from the nearest part of them about 2 Miles.

Joseph Banks Journal
During last night the gale had freshned much and in the morn we found that we had Drove above a League. Fortunately no shoal had in that distance taken us up but one was in sight astern and the ship drove fast towards it, on this another anchor was let go and much cable verd out but even this would not stop her. Our prospect was now more melancholy than ever: the shoal was plainly to be seen and the ship still driving gently down towards it, a sea running at the same time which would make it impossible ever to get off if we should be unfortunate enough to get on. Yards and Topmasts were therefore got down and every thing done which could be thought of to make the ship snug, without any effect: she still drove and the shoal we dreaded came nearer and nearer to us. The sheet anchor our last resource was now thought of and prepard, but fortunately for us before we were drove to the making use of that expedient the ship stoppd and held fast, to our great joy. During the time of its blowing yesterday and today we became certain that between us and the open sea was a ledge of rocks or reef just the same as we had seen at the Islands, no very agreable discovery, for should that at any time join in with the main land we must wait for another season when different winds from the present ones prevaild; in which case we must infallibly be short of provisions or, if the turtle should fail us, Salt provisions without bread was all we had to trust to.

No comments:

Post a Comment